Chalford Parish in 42 Stories – Brownshill, Bussage, Chalford and France Lynch.

By members of the Chalford Parish Local History Group.  Edited by Camilla Boon, Hilary Burgess and Roger Carnt.

As the title implies, there are 42 sections to this book, too many to list individually, but they have been organised into the following aspects:

  • Chalford through Time
  • Buildings
  • People and Places
  • Events and Activities
  • Transport
  • Reminiscences

The first section ranges from descriptions of the early landscape and items from the Mesolithic period, medieval ecclesiastical stones including a variety of examples of dry stone walls and an old gargoyle called the Jellyman Stone.  It covers Chalford’s woollen and silk mills and concludes with two sections on local public houses, those on the hill and those in the vale.

The second section, on buildings, includes the bakery in France Lynch and the Ram Inn, Chalford Place, The Round House, Sevill’s Upper Mill and Chancery and The Limes.  The article here on Bussage church includes 21 pictures of ministers since the ecclesiastical parish was formed in 1848 – the 22nd is recorded by his monumental inscription.  The history of the nonconformist churches and chapels, the Congregationalist and Baptists, is given.  Skiveralls House and its occupants are described including James Bradley who was the Astronomer Royal from 1742 to 1762.

Richard Webb’s Historical Notes and Anecdotes from his 1920s’ lectures begin the third section of the book.  It also contains information on Chalford’s one hundred springs, particularly one petrifying spring and others named Black Gutter and Bubbler.  This is followed by the sad story of Thomas Carrington who, after 43 years working on the railway, was killed whilst walking through the short Sapperton Tunnel on his way to work as a signalman – a route that was banned due to the danger from passing trains.  This section concludes with articles on local builders, clockmakers and medicinal practitioners who worked in the area.

Life was not always easy for the people of Chalford, France Lynch, Bussage and Brownshill.  Like many working in the weaving industry during the 1820s and 1830s, they were affected by loss of work and their hardship led to the subsequent strikes and riots. Items from the Royal Commission on the weaving industry and current newspaper reports illustrate the suffering of the weavers.  This contrasts with the fairs, feasts and festivals held in the area in the years before the First World War and the various clubs and bands of the twentieth century.

The fifth section of the book, on transport, covers the building of the Severn and Thames Canal which began in the area in 1784 in order for goods to be taken to London. The cargoes transported are discussed, as are the local lock and wharf.  The coming of the railway to Chalford in 1845 and the building of the local railway station in 1897 were important events affecting the lives of the villagers. Maps showing the local highways and byways are provided and a plan is mentioned regarding the proposed building of a tramway connecting Chalford with Stroud and other towns in the county, a project which was never completed

The final section looks at France Lynch villagers, the personal reminiscences of the early days of Desmond Gardiner, life without power (in many homes not until the 1950s) and mains water (until the 1960s).  A short article on Frank Lydiatt, the cobbler, is followed by life growing up in a cottage on Cowcombe Hill.

At the very end of the book, there is a list of sources for each story but, sadly, no index – I do like an index to a book!  But it is so packed full of information, on people, places, and events that an index would certainly add many more pages to the publication. 

Not being very familiar with Chalford myself, it is hard to imagine any aspects of Chalford’s history that have been omitted, the coverage being so comprehensive of local, family and social history.  The book contains 340 pages of a combination of research and memories, enhanced by plenty of black and white maps, sketches, photographs and newspaper cuttings.    It can be bought from Eastcombe Stores, Eastcombe, Green Shop, Bisley and Chalford Community Shop, Chalford, for the sum of £10.  It will definitely find a space on my book shelves.